Western Sydney community urged to stay up-to-date with tetanus vaccinations following recent cases in NSW

NSW Health is urging people to make sure they are up to date with their tetanus vaccinations after three cases in NSW, including one death.

Dr Christine Selvey, Director of Communicable Diseases, NSW Health, urged the community, particularly older Australians, to ensure they are up to date with their tetanus vaccinations.

“Tetanus is a rare, but potentially fatal disease. Vaccination is the best protection against tetanus,” Dr Selvey said.

“In Australia, the disease mostly occurs in older people, usually women, who are inadequately immunised.”

Sadly, NSW Health can confirm a woman in her 80s from Sydney died on 1 April from tetanus. NSW Health expresses its sincere condolences to her loved ones.

This death follows two other notifications of tetanus reported in NSW this year, a woman in her 80s, also from Sydney, and a woman in her 70s from Northern NSW.

These are the first tetanus cases reported in NSW since 2019, and the death is the first due to tetanus since 1993.

This serves as a reminder for all older Australians to check their tetanus vaccination status. If there is any doubt, speak to your general practitioner about whether you should have a tetanus vaccine,” Dr Selvey said.

In all three cases, tetanus was acquired from a minor wound on the woman’s lower leg that was contaminated by garden soil. Two of the women had no record of tetanus vaccination and the third had a vaccine more than 30 years ago.

Tetanus (sometimes called lock-jaw) is a disease caused by a bacteria found in soil. The bacteria can enter wounds and produce a toxin that attacks a person’s nervous system. The disease does not spread person to person.

A three-dose primary course of tetanus vaccinations is offered in infancy under the National Immunisation Program.

Adults who have had a primary course of tetanus vaccine should receive booster doses at 50 and 65 years if it has been more than 10 years since the last dose. Adults who have never received a primary course should receive three doses of tetanus-containing vaccine, followed by booster doses after 10 and 20 years.

For more information on tetanus, please visit: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/tetanus.aspx